Yussen v. Med. Care Availability & Reduction of Error Fund (majority)Annotate this Case
At issue in this direct appeal to the Supreme Court was a statutory prerequisite to the obligation of the Insurance Department to defend certain medical professional liability actions asserted against health care providers, and to the requirement for payment of claims asserted in such actions from the Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error Fund. Specifically, resolution of the appeal turned on when, under the governing statute, a "claim" is "made" outside a specified four-year time period. On June 4, 2007, Joanna Ziv filed a praecipe for a writ of summons naming Appellant Phillip Yussen, M.D. and other medical providers as defendants. A complaint was filed on August 2, 2007, alleging medical negligence last occurring on July 7, 2003. Appellant’s primary insurer, Pennsylvania Healthcare Providers Insurance Exchange, requested that the claim be accorded Section 715 status by the Insurance Department. The Department denied such request, however, on the basis that the claim had been made less than four years after the alleged malpractice. Appellant initially challenged this determination in the administrative setting, and a hearing ensued. Before the examiner, Appellant argued that, consistent with the policy definition of a "claim," the date on which a claim is made for purposes of Section 715 cannot precede the date on which notice is provided to the insured. Appellee, on the other hand, contended that a claim is made when it is first asserted, instituted, or comes into existence - including upon the tender of a demand or the commencement of a legal action - and that notice to the insured or insurer is not a necessary prerequisite. In this regard, Appellee Medical Care Availability & Reduction of Error Fund highlighted that Section 715 does require "notice" of the claim to trigger the provider's obligation to report the claim to the Fund within 180 days, but the statute does not contain such an express notice component in delineating the four-year requirement. The Commonwealth Court sustained exceptions to the hearing examiner's recommendation lodged by Appellee and entered judgment in its favor. In its review, the Supreme Court found "claim" and "made" as used in Section 715 ambiguous. The Court determined that for purposes of Section 715, the mere filing of a praecipe for a writ of summons does not suffice to make a claim, at least in absence of some notice or demand communicated to those from whom damages are sought. The Court remanded the case for entry of judgment in Appellant's favor.